MICHELA HOMER from BestStart Educare shares some suggestions for helping to make that transition into a new early childhood centre a smooth and happy one – for your child, and for you.
Settling-in visits allow your child to get familiar with the new adults, children and environment at a new centre, secure in the knowledge that you’re there beside them. They also allow you to hear and absorb the way the centre works.
Try sitting near your child but allow them the space to start exploring. If your child is confident, find a comfy seat and simply observe. If they need a little more support, look for ways to engage them, through finding an activity that you know will be interesting to them. Teachers will be more than happy to support you and your child. Just ask!
Separation anxiety is normal. Prepare yourself by showing your child that you’re happy for them going to this new place and that you trust the adults around them. You may get upset about your child’s anxiety, but it is important that you remain positive while still acknowledging your child’s feelings. Teachers will support you and your child through this process.
Always tell your child what’s happening: say goodbye and reassure them that you will be back later. Slipping away when they’re settled can cause your child to become more anxious and start to anticipate you disappearing. Instead, go into the centre, help them to put their bags where they need to go, either take them to a teacher, child or an activity you know they will enjoy, and say something like, ‘Mummy has to go now, but I’ll be back later; have a lovely day’. Then leave! The more you hover, the more the process is prolonged and your child’s anxiety will grow.
Ask the teacher to call you when your child is settled, or you can always call the centre to find out if your child has settled. They’ll understand your anxiety and will want to know that you’re okay too!
Your child will settle faster if they see your ability to build trust and relationships with the teachers. So talk to your teacher about your child, and let your child hear and see that you have confidence in the new adults in their world. Your child’s teacher will be thrilled to hear about what your child likes to do at home and will want to understand their routines – so that they can use these as a basis for settling your child at the centre.
By knowing what’s important to you and your family and integrating this into centre life, and by developing sound relationships with you and your child based on empathy and understanding, teachers will help your child feel safe, secure and valued. Every child is unique – a taonga (treasure) – and teachers know what a special privilege it is to work with your child.